Friday, December 21, 2018

Merry Christmas!

Take time to enjoy this very special season (and the reason for it).

Merry Christmas from the PRSL!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Can You Identify the Railroad or the Location of This Photo?

Can You Identify the Railroad or the Location of This Photo?

When I looked at this picture I was struck by the composure and the beauty of the scene. It was striking! It was one of the prettiest railroad pictures I had ever scene.

My mind quickly went to work trying to identify the engines and the railroad. I eagerly began reading the text to fill in the background.


Imagine my shock when I saw the second picture (below) and was stunned to realize this was a model photo on the author's small layout. This is the work of Caleb Austin and his submission can be found on the Railwire forum at:

His work is some of the best I have ever run across. I am still stunned.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Staging Yard Update - Part III

The Twisted Journey of the PRSL staging.

The one thing I am getting better at as I age is increasing my stupidity coefficient in layout design. I originally laid out the north and south staging yards side by side (see the two October 23rd blog entries) to support the layout's major (70%) rebuild.

While lying in bed one night it suddenly dawned on me that the existing north staging yard would enter the on-line Camden Pavonia yard from the wrong end. That meant that I would have to raise the north yard’s 4 tracks 2 inches get to the yard from the other, hi-line end. 

Out came the jig-saw. I lost some extension on the coal drag track (now reduced to 90” ~ 30 units)

I then finished laying the south end staging (on cork this time). The north yard holds 102 40’ cars and the south yard 122 cars. A lot of tuning remains to get these tracks to run to something faintly resembling flawlessly.

The layout now has 63 Peco turnouts, most of which are around 40 years old. I still need to finish two complex track areas to once again resume operations. This is another case of “If I knew what I was getting into, I never would have started this project.

The north yard holds the Deepwater (electric plant) coal drag (29 loaded cars), the Penns Grove Tank Sweeper (27 cars), the Philadelphia yard transfer (mixed freight; up to 24 cars), and the Millville Sand Hog (14 empty gons and covered hoppers).

The 5 track south staging holds a loaded Sand Hog, an empty coal drag, and a Salem local. Per the prototype, the trains are all “turns” from Camden reaching the south staging (3 seperate branches: Deepwater/Millville/Salem), doing, run-arounds, and returning to the Camden yard or north staging. Hence 2 of the 5 south staging tracks are always empty for engine run arounds.

North yard's 4 staging tracks raised 2 inches
 Both staging yards with staged trains:

The on-line Camden's Pavonia Yard is still responsible for receiving the Philly transfer and assembling the Millville, Deepwater and Camden locals. The transfer will return to the north yard staging with empties and loads designated for Philadelphia and beyond.

The Millville and Deepwater locals will leave empties/loads at a siding off the south staging yard for a waybill cycle.

Per the prototype, the Salem local will leave staging and swap cars at the small Woodbury (with icing facilities) yard before returning to the Salem staging track. Since it serves mostly farmland, it will primarily consist of reefers.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Timonium Great Scale Model Train Show

Went to the Timonium Great Scale Model Train Show today and took a lot of pictures:

Not N Scale but I want one!

This picture is of an HO model that had 3 operating fans in the tender (which I had never seen before). The gentleman with the model explained that this was a German ingenuity attempt that didn’t quite get into production before WWII ended. They piped the steam from before it escaped the stack in the front of the engine back to the tender condensers. This was to accomplish 2 things: 1) less smoke was pumped out the stack which would make it more difficult for allied aircraft to spot the engine: and 2) it recycled the water back into the tender for reuse minimizing the need to stop as often for water refills. Neat operating model!

This goes with the WM engine above.

These were interesting module table legs made to look like bents from a timber trestle.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Staging Yard Update - Part II

This week I added the 5 track south end staging yard (on cork roadbed). This is a double ended yard to allow run-arounds to match the prototype's out and back "Turn" pattern.

The 4 track north end staging held 4 trains.

  • The Coal drag with 30+ loaded hoppers.
  • The Sand Hog with empty gondolas and covered hoppers. (15-20 cars)
  • The Tank Sweeper (20-25 tankers)
  • The Philadelphia transfer run (10-20) which contains inbound loads and needed empty cars for the days industry requests.

The south end yard contains:

  • Loaded gons for the Sand Hog
  • Empty hoppers for the coal drag
  • A new Salem local that will run between south end staging and Woodbury and back to staging.
  • Storage for all cars delivered to the branches at Millville, Deepwater, and Salem.

It will always have 2 tracks open for an arriving freight and the run around track. When the departing "Turn" leaves it then again contains 2 open tracks.

A Yard Out of Time!

I am in the process of building 2 side by side staging yards for my revamped PRSL layout. I thought I was pretty smart when I acquired 2 boxes of old AMI roadbed to start the yards. That stuff was great! You could slap it down on plywood and it would stay in place without nails. Then you could slap the track down and it also would stay in place and hold alignment without nails.

I used it on the double ended yard on my old layout (see photo). The remnants of it (single sided) live on as the Camden Pavonia yard on my current PRSL layout.

Double-ended Island Yard on my old layout

The single-ended remnants of Island Yard serving as Camden's Pavonia Yard on the current PRSL layout
Alas time has taken its toll. AMI has been out of business for 15-20 years and the surviving product has dried out. It is still sticky on both sides but not enough to stay in place or hold the track in alignment. (At least it is sticky enough that I won’t have to use glue for the cinders and ground cover.).

I completed the 4 track north end staging yard (capacity: 114 40’ cars) which holds the coal, sand, and tank drags and the Philadelphia transfer with ease (30 to 50 car trains). Now I need to begin on the south end 5 terminus yard tracks. The capacity will actually be less since the yard needs to be double ended to permit the prototypical run-around out and back train movements.

Time to go back to cork! (I miss live AMI roadbed!)

Monday, September 24, 2018


My "Foul Weather Friends" (my operators who disappear during the summer months) have harassed me for an update so here are the photos.

The original layout:

Current rebuilding progress:

Proof of concept has been accomplished as you can see by the benchwork along the window and the right side. Construction from the framework up needs to be started in those two areas. Aisle space is adequate (actually more than expected)

Westville (left center) is in its new location and almost connected to the unaffected Philly/Camden left leg. The town of Westville had to be condensed by 18".

The 180 (270) degree end will be a scenicing challenge. Initially I am visualizing a low/medium hill solidly covered primarily with puffball trees that obscure the trains during most of the radius.

Woodbury will lose 2 1/2' and needs condensing. More than 6' of  the triple track will need to be relaid.

I should end up with at least 9 tracks of long (30+ cars) staging on the right. (Yeah!) That should take the burden off the Camden Pavonia Yard crew since all the turnarounds (except locals) will shift to the 5 track south end staging yard (Millville/Deepwater/Salem). Camden will still deal with the Philly transfers and the Millville, Deepwater, and Camden locals. We should be able to add the prototypical Salem local operating from south end staging to Woodbury and back to staging.

The bad news is that I am going to be significantly short of Midwest roadbed, Atlas code 80 flex-track and Peco code 80 electrofrog turnouts. The new staging requires 13 turnouts alone (the southern end of staging is double ended for the turnarounds).

As usual this project has turned out to be much, much larger than expected both in work and cost (I have already spent more than a hundred dollars for stick lumber and 3/4" plywood).

Saturday, August 18, 2018


As the July 30th blog entry indicated, I tore apart the layout and decided to rearrange some portions of it in the hopes of adding staging. All the rolling stock was moved to the undisturbed Camden Pavonia Yard. Fortunately it holds over 125 cars by itself.

Three of the four end sections were removed, The right leg (Westville) was moved to the left middle. The previous middle (Woodbury) is now the right middle. Nine track staging (for both ends) is planned to now occupy the vacated right wall.

I have started connecting the Westville leg with the undisturbed Philly-Manayunk section.

Ten layout legs have been shortened (8 more to go). Looks like I’ll need:
  • Another sheet of plywood
  • (8) 2x3s, 
  • (4) 1x3s, 
  • and another 10 turnouts
Whose idea was this anyway?  😕

S Scale

I got to revisit Bill Lane's S Scale layout again and once again got to drool over the engines he has built or rebuilt.

Baldwin AS-16

Pennsy B6 backed up by a K4 and another B6

String of Pennsy Geeps (and boosters)

Reading Atlantic

Some of Bill's new express reefers

REA depot

Woodbury's Ace Motor Company

A theater named for Woodbury's movie house

Monday, July 30, 2018

Operators Taking the Summer Off!

Southwestern New Jersey seems somewhat devoid of N Scale model railroaders. Putting together a reliable operating crew is somewhat challenging. You want to find folks who are somewhat compatible in interests and behavior (ex: civilized, non-smoking, non-cussing, and semi-rational :-) ). (I am becoming more and more convinced that many model railroaders cross that last barrier.)

I found one of my regular crew of four from the Railwire forum, one from the forum (who brought a friend) and one locally. Two of them travel about 80 miles to join me and that is asking a lot. Another travels about 20 miles, the fourth is local. I have access to occasional substitutes but both come from distances across the Delaware River (on the Pennsylvania frontier).

I do seasonal work for a tax preparation company which wipes out my playtime schedule about 4 months (mid-January to mid-April) of every year and impacts another 2 months (mid-November to mid-January). That leaves 6 months, of which Summer consumes 3 months. One of my regulars lives at the Jersey shore and loves boating, another likes to ride his tricycle on sunny weekends, and a third seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth (probably dealing with family issues). One of the part-timers does teleprompting for corporations and politicians. That is his only income so trains, of necessity take a back seat.

So I am off and I can't put together an operating crew. Building kits is becoming less fun due to increasingly shaky hands. 

An idle mind finds ways to get into trouble. So a significant portion of the layout went from this:

To this:

Why you might ask (possibly remembering the "non-rational" quote above)? Many reasons:
* No operating crew and nothing to do
* Boredom (the layout was approaching that nearly completed state which leads to BOREDOM)
* The Millville/Deepwater ends needed staging and I had absolutely no way to squeeze it in.
* As I aged, the duck-under was becoming a pain in the neck back
* I wanted to start running 30-40 car coal drags, sand drags, and tanker trains (staging again) and yard capacity was limiting me to 20 or less.
* During operations, the Camden Pavonia yard was becoming overloaded and these changes will more evenly balance the workload between the two towers.

So left unattended I tore down several sections (Camden/Philly/Manayunk were not affected) and plan to make several changes which may or may not work.
* The Westville and Woodbury sections will be rearranged and placed back to back (and lowered)
* Staging for both ends will be along the wall Westville used to occupy.

There are costs to this attempt.
* I am at a standstill until I can get 3 more people to help me move the existing sections.
* Tighter curves (19" min radius to 15").
* The entrance end will have restricted aisle widths
* Westville will now fall under un-prototypical control of Brown Tower (Camden) instead of Red Oak Tower (Woodbury)
* A lot more work

I am uncharacteristically doing this without a detailed scaled plan. But if it doesn't work I'll change themes, do away with the Westville and Woodbury modules and just build a new non-PRSL railroad along the the other wall leaving the center of the room open. (The room certainly feels brighter and more friendly that way!)

The lesson from all this: "Never leave Rick alone with his idle (dangerous) mind."